Transcript - 2GB Radio - Drive

JIM WILSON:

We've got a bit of a rail theme coming your way right now. A huge construction program is under way at the moment.

When it's finished the Inland Rail will run for 1,700 kilometres from Melbourne to Brisbane, travelling through places like Parkes, Moree and Toowoomba.

They've described it as the largest freight rail infrastructure project in Australia and one of the countries most significant infrastructure projects since the construction of the snowy hydro scheme.

You might have seen one of the ads in the paper on the weekend telling us how the first section of the project is complete, more than 100 kilometres of track between Parkes and Narromine. But the ads also told us about the extent of Australian made products in the project. That's what caught my eye. I think it's absolutely fantastic.

Now have a listen to this: 200,000 concrete sleepers from Mittagong; close to 360,000 tonnes of ballast from Parkes; 14,000 tonnes of new steel rail from Whyalla; 365,000 rail clips from Blacktown; and near 27,000 tonnes of precast culverts from Tamworth.

Inland Rail is a Federal Government project. Mark Coulton is the Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government and he's also the Member for Parkes and he's on the line this afternoon.

Minister, welcome to Drive.

MARK COULTON:

G'day Jim, how are you?

JIM WILSON:

This is terrific. As I said it caught my eye because of these Australian made products in this project. It's terrific, especially in this time that we're facing right now with the challenges we face on the economic front.

MARK COULTON:

The other good stat that you could have mentioned is that in the construction so far 1,862 people worked on it and 762 of those were from the local area, and 302 of those were Indigenous people.

JIM WILSON:

That's terrific.

MARK COULTON:

It's providing a wonderful boost for employment as well.

JIM WILSON:

It's fantastic. Where did the idea coming from for the Inland Rail project?

MARK COULTON:

Look, it predates you and I, Jim. It goes back to about the turn of the last century. We've been talking about this for a long time, but it really got going probably since the 2000s and some of the studies were done around 2010 but it 2017 when we fully funded the construction of it.

Parkes to Narromine is the first section and before Christmas we'll see construction go north of Moree up to an area called North Star and then we'll start construction from North Star back to Narrabri. That's the next section.

JIM WILSON:

Okay. So what impact, Minister, will it have on the economy?

MARK COULTON:

A couple of things. One is we've obviously got a growing logistics issue within a modal (indistinct) from Melbourne to Brisbane. That will be a fairly important role it has but it will also provide a spine of steel right through the middle of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

I'm really particularly interested in the impact it will have ‑ so farmers will get cheaper freight rates to ports for their produce and grain.

But also with the growing of the cities, and I think particularly post‑COVID with regional Australia really looking to come through in a positive way, I think the opportunity for business to relocate along those areas where there's available land, stable workforce and not only will it be Melbourne to Brisbane but for the first time in the history of the country every capital city in Australia will be connected by a standard gauge railway.

Already trains are loading up in Parkes and heading nonstop to Perth and Adelaide and places like that.

I think we're going to see a revolution, particularly as we're more conscious about efficient use of energy. You know, rail is certainly a very effective way of moving goods and product around the country.

JIM WILSON:

What condition are the lines that you're upgrading and what does the upgrade work involve?

MARK COULTON:

Basically the corridors there, these were existing lines so far but really everything gets removed right down to the base earthworks and the bridges and the culverts.

It's basically a brand-new railway line, and a couple of weeks ago Michael McCormack and I did the official opening at Peak Hill at that first section and it really is a railway for the 21st century. It's concrete sleepers, it's category 1 rail and the whole thing's rebuild.

In some ways the green field sites, which will be Narromine up to Narrabri may be a little bit more straightforward because they won't have to do remediation work on an existing track.

JIM WILSON:

We're all about jobs and creating jobs and that's why infrastructure is so important, that's why this project's so important. How many jobs will be created through this project, Minister?

MARK COULTON:

Look, I think in the whole project, Jim, we're talking about 16,000.

JIM WILSON:

Okay.

MARK COULTON:

And already, you know, as I said, there's nearly 1900 have worked on it already in that first 100-kilometre section.

The next section, North Star back to Narrabri, is probably near 200Ks and there's 300‑odd kilometres Narrabri back to Narromine and then of course we've got the Queensland section as well. It's going to be an engineering marvel, you know, tunnels down the Toowoomba Range into Brisbane, and then ultimately it connects by tunnel or channel into the Port of Brisbane.

There's a lot of work. Hopefully the first trains running 2025 if we can keep to schedule. It's a very exciting time.

JIM WILSON:

Well it is fantastic, and as I said, jobs and infrastructure are so important in these challenging times. I love the fact about the Australian made products that are involved in the project. Well done.

MARK COULTON:

Yeah, it's a great story. If you remember back, the Whyalla steelworks were on the brink of closing and so the inland has basically saved that industry in Whyalla. I think that's exciting in itself.

JIM WILSON:

No, terrific news. Well done. Appreciate your time this afternoon, Minister.

MARK COULTON:

Any time, Jim, thanks.

JIM WILSON:

Good on you. That's Mark Coulton who's the Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government.

Media Contact:

Mr Coulton – Steph Nicholls 0417 314 920